Monday, March 22, 2010

Tracking Multiple Estimates with Project

MS Project is a powerful tool. However, it has certain expectations about tasks, and deviating from them can be difficult. For instance, Project presumes tasks have a single work amount and duration.

I prefer multiple estimates. I typically ask developers for a realistic and a pessimistic estimate (i.e., "should be done by, could take as long as"). Then, I also track a weighted estimate somewhere between these, based on my confidence in the given estimates. Finally, I want a projected duration based on how long the work has taken so far (e.g., if a task is half done in a week, the projection should be two weeks).

Since Project expects only one work/duration value, tracking progress and making predictions against multiple estimates is hard. You can create extra columns for them, but these don't integrate well with many features, such as Gantt charts. And, as far as I can tell, the projected duration isn't a built-in option.

To work around these issues, I created a Project 2010 template that lets me track work items with multiple estimates. The key advantages are:

  • Easy pessimistic/optimistic/etc estimates, Gantt charts, and end dates.
  • Projected estimate based on how long tasks have taken so far.
  • Simple steps to track progress, whether reported as percent done or time left.

Here are links to the template and to instructions. I think it's fairly easy to use, but I'm very interested in any feedback. If you give it a try, let me know!

Edit: A commenter requested a Project 2007 version of the template, so I've put one here. However, not having actually used it myself in Project 2007, I can't guarantee how well it'll work.